US trial turns heat on MTN

Patco in turn appears to be linked to a firm called Arya Hamrah Samaneh Co, the state-linked partnership that operates a data centre housing MTN Irancell's hardware systems.

The US prosecutor's account of Hajian's and Talley's activities seemingly dovetails with allegations by Reuters last year that "MTN was well aware of the US sanctions, wrestled with how to deal with them and ultimately decided to circumvent them by relying on Middle Eastern firms inside and outside Iran".

Reuters quoted Chris Kilowan, MTN's Iran office manager from 2004 to 2007, and referred to extensive internal documents, including presentations that "openly discussed circumventing US sanctions to source American technical equipment for MTN Irancell".

Kilowan, also Turkcell's main witness in its complaint against MTN, claimed that Arya Hamrah was an Iranian front "used to camouflage purchases of embargoed equipment" by MTN Irancell.

He said MTN Irancell obtained Sun servers – like those exported by Hajian – from an Iranian firm, Patsa Co, a shareholder in Arya Hamrah.

Last year, the Mail & Guardian reported allegations from sources in MTN Irancell that the company and its contractors had actively assisted the state in targeting political activists by providing person-specific data.

MTN has consistently denied circumventing embargoes and expressed outrage at claims that its technology could be used to identify and persecute dissidents.

Paul Norman, MTN group's chief human resources and corporate affairs officer, has said: "MTN works with reputable international suppliers. We have checked vendor-compliance procedures and continue to monitor them and we are confident they are robust."

Neither MTN nor Hajian's ­attorney, Jim Felman, answered questions this week.

    * Got a tip-off for us about this story? Email [email protected]




The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane) produced this story. All views are ours. See for our stories, activities and funding sources.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Developing investigative journalism in the public interest. Digging dung. Fertilising democracy.

Related stories

High court puts temporary halt on R500-million tablet tender

State technology agency wins first battle in IT tender war, with court to hear rest of the matter on urgent basis

Inside Facebook’s big bet on Africa

New undersea cables will massively increase bandwidth to the continent

Faster, cheaper data is here – but not for long

There are factors such as exchange rates, electricity costs, security free and fuel prices that are contributors, but additional spectrum will certainly bring about significant change in the local industry

South Africa’s digital divide detrimental to the youth

Without the means to leverage lockdown as a time to grow, Covid-19 reinforces how access to data remains a barrier to young people’s progress

Zero-rate mobile services for health, education and development now

Operators must work together — if each network picks which sites to zero-rate, access to information will be determined by the colour of a person’s sim card

MTN drives inclusivity of deaf community

The company produced DefBars, a bespoke music track using SASL for the hard-of-hearing and/or deaf community.

Subscribers only

The shame of 40 000 missing education certificates

Graduates are being left in the lurch by a higher education department that is simply unable to deliver the crucial certificates proving their qualifications - in some cases dating back to 1992

The living nightmare of environmental activists who protest mine expansion

Last week Fikile Ntshangase was gunned down as activists fight mining company Tendele’s expansions. Community members tell the M&G about the ‘kill lists’ and the dread they live with every day

More top stories

Fifteen witnesses for vice-chancellor probe

Sefako Makgatho University vice-chancellor Professor Peter Mbati had interdicted parliament last month from continuing with the inquiry

Constitutional Court ruling on restructuring dispute is good for employers

A judgment from the apex court empowers employers to change their workers’ contracts — without consultation

Audi Q8: Perfectly cool

The Audi Q8 is designed to be the king in the elite SUV class. But is it a victim of its own success?

KZN officials cash in on ‘danger pay for Covid-19’

Leadership failures at Umdoni local municipality in KwaZulu-Natal have caused a ‘very unhappy’ ANC PEC to fire the mayor and chief whip

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday